Tuesday, December 27, 2005

"Making Love" in the TNIV

I obtained as a freebie at a recent Youth Specialties conference a copy of Today's New International Version (TNIV) of the Bible. The TNIV is a twenty-first century update of the quarter-century old New International Version (the best-selling Bible translation) and comes to us from the people at Zondervan and the International Bible Society.

Anyway, I found the TNIV's translation of the following verse interesting and a little off-putting:

Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her (1 Samuel 1:19, TNIV).

"Made love"? I'm not a Hebrew expert, but isn't "made love" a bit too colorful of a translation of a verb that the NRSV translates as "knew"? A form of the verb "to know" was also used by the gang rapists at Sodom (Genesis 19:5); fortunately, the TNIV translators here do not use "make love," but opt for "have sex with." After further analysis of the books of the Pentateuch and Deuteronomic history, I found that the more common verb for sex, which the NRSV translates as "to lay with," is translated in the TNIV as "to sleep with."

Personally, I have to side with the Sodomite rapists in the TNIV: "To have sex with" is a verb phrase that means what it says, makes sense to contemporary readers, and avoids icky and weak jargon (i.e. "to make love to" and "to sleep with," respectively). I appreciate the TNIV's efforts to eliminate the confusing and childish use of the verbs "to know" and "to lay with." But "making love" belongs in a contemporary paraphrase, not in a standard translation.


Blogger Wayne Leman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:19 AM  
Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Josh, FWIW, I think the TNIV translates well here with the common euphemism "made love to." To me, making love sounds like a more, well, loving thing for a husband and wife to do, than "sleeping with" each other.

I enjoyed reading your post and empathize with your concern that a translation not sound too colloquial.

8:40 AM  
Blogger Christopher Heard said...

Wayne, it seems to me that your defense of "to make love" here depends on "facts not in evidence," namely, imputing certain emotional states to Elkanah. Read more about it at Higgaion.

10:56 PM  
Blogger John said...

I think that "making love" implies romantic connotations not necessarily found in the Biblical text. The TNIV translators used have used "did the horizontal polka" instead.

7:07 AM  

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